Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Excerpt Tuesday - Muse

For this week's Excerpt Tuesday, I have a selection from an earlier novel, Muse. This book has an interesting history, one I've recounted here. Muse was not a planned work, but something that arose from a period of writer's block connected to another book I wanted to finish, Boone. Years ago I had started work on Boone and hit wall after wall, and before I knocked myself unconscious I decided to set the work aside and try an exercise I learned from a writer named Leslea Newman.

Aside from having penned numerous novels and short stories, Leslea also wrote a very good writer's manual which suggested the practice of "kvetching" on paper. If you have trouble at a starting point, you rant about whatever comes to mind, even if it's a complaint about how you can't write, and soon you're headlong into a story. When I found I could no longer progress with Boone, I took one part of the story and kvetched, taking on the role of a frustrated writer suffering blockage. I finished a chapter, then another, then more. Soon my kvetcher had a name - Tania Garber - and I had another work in progress.

Muse is the story of a romance writer also trying to finish Boone. Luckily for her, she gets it done more quickly - the original draft of this book combined the old story with the newer one wrapped around it. When I submitted Muse to Phaze Books for consideration I was offered a contract...and asked to excise most of Boone out of the book and perhaps present that as a second work.

Back to square one. Well, you know the rest of the story: I eventually finished Boone and you can buy that one as well. For now, here's a piece from the second, or rather first work.



Wesley Boone looked up from the galley kitchen counter to see his thin, blonde companion waving her arms around the compact living room with a hair dryer. No sooner had they arrived at the condo, rented for the month, did Alisha hit the stereo and fill the silence with a local rock station, and here she insisted on being heard over the noise.

Boone sighed and padded over to the owner's archaic stereo, turning down the volume. He had left Los Angeles to get away from the noise, to say nothing of work-related stress. He should have known better to think Alisha would not bring a little of both with her.

"…and how do you expect me to listen to my music on that thing?" Alisha continued, a look of disgust marring her lovely face. "Did you see the 8-track slot on it? How am I supposed to play my CDs?"

Boone straightened and regarded Alisha's pouting, pink lips and high cheekbones with a touch of regret. She had the best-looking face money could buy, and Heaven help how that face would distort when she learned what he had planned to do while they were here. Perhaps it would freeze permanently.

"I'm surprised you know what an 8-track is." It was a bit before her time.

Alisha snorted, then giggled. "Come on, Boone. I'm not that out of touch. I did a walk-on for an episode of That 70s Show, you know."

No sense arguing with that logic. "Have you considered, Alisha, appreciating the silence?" he asked. "That's why we're here, so I can relax and renew my creativity, and maybe get back to work one day." Get on with my life, without you, he wanted to add, but instead said, "I can't concentrate on getting better if you're going to try daily to render me deaf and insane."

Alisha scoffed. "That doctor is a quack. Your nerves are fine." Those pouting lips then curled into a mischievous smile, and she snaked her hands around his waist. "They felt fine last night, anyway, along with the rest of you." She licked her lips as one hand came to rest on the bulge between his thighs. "Mmm, just thinking about how you pounded that thick—"

Her touch was hardly a turn-on. Boone shrugged away from her, then looked behind him and pointed. "What's with the hair dryer?"

Alisha pulled away and looked at the dryer as if realizing for the first time that she was holding it. "Oh, I was putting my stuff in the bathroom—the teeny-tiny master bathroom with no jetted tub, I might add," she said, weary, "and that guy's got his crap all over the sink! Where am I supposed to put my stuff?"

"Captain Anderson said there's a plastic bin under the sink. You can put his stuff there for the duration of our stay."

The smile was gone; the look on Alisha's face implied that the task was too much work for an aspiring actress/model such as herself. She wrinkled her nose at the nautical décor of the condo. "I don't like it here. I feel like I'm living with the Gorton's fisherman," she complained. "This place smells like old people, and cat."

"This place is fine. There's a great view of the beach, and easy access to it. You can go every day we're here." Right this second seemed all the more appealing. Was she going to complain the entire time?

Alisha was hardly appeased. "You could have spent a little more money. Got us a nicer, larger place with a private beach."

"I'd like to have some money when I, er, we get back to LA." Boone cringed, and hoped Alisha had not noticed the slip. To his relief, she merely stomped about the living room, scowling at the captain's framed aircraft carrier photos and certificates of service to the United States Navy.

He returned to the kitchen and toed the litter box by the refrigerator. The captain's cat was with a neighbor during the older man's sojourn. "Just finish unpacking," Boone said, "and we'll go somewhere nice for dinner tonight."

The promise appeared to lighten Alisha's mood, and she bounced happily into the back bedroom. Boone watched the shapely lift of her buttocks as she retreated, and sighed. Lovely she was indeed, even before the elective surgeries. Why she had insisted on them he could not imagine, because she was still rather young, and her looks before could never have impeded her securing work in any facet of show business. The money would have been better spent on acting and singing lessons, but Alisha for some reason preferred a raw approach to showcasing her talents, whatever that meant. The raw approach must have forgiven artificial enhancements to the body.

Boone leaned on the counter, looking over the tenant's agreement drawn out for him by the condo's owner, which was accompanied by a note written by aged, trembling hands. The captain's missive assured Boone that the condominium complex was the epitome of serenity with its thick walls and flooring, a beacon of calm among the busy Chesapeake Beach strip. Nearly three-quarters of the tenants were retired or approaching retirement age, and those who rented their units abided by a strict code that ensured all renters were quiet and mindful of their neighbors. Boone's serenity could be had here, no problem.

Good, Boone thought, thankful that the old man had agreed to sublet, even for the short time. Boone's doctor had been adamant that he get some rest, insisting that some time away from the city would calm him, and eventually aid in the recovery of his ability to work. On the recommendation of a colleague, he chose the East Coast, as opposed to any of the similar beach towns bordering the Pacific Ocean, to make a point of getting as far away as possible. He wanted a complete mental overhaul.

The trip, he hoped, would also serve to soften the blow of Boone's planned breakup with Alisha. Though he could not and would not attribute this recent problem to her, he had to admit to himself that their yearlong relationship was stagnant. Aside from a mutually strong sexual appetite and their careers—he being a much sought after photographer, having met twenty-years-younger Alisha on a magazine shoot—they had nothing in common.

Boone wondered now if they even had the sex in common; their first night in Virginia Beach at the hotel had to have been a fluke, as lately his desire for intimacy had dwindled along with his desire to pick up a camera. Perhaps it was the anticipation of this vacation that provided his withering libido a reprieve, he decided. Either that, or Alisha had spiked his drink with some kind of performance drug.

He looked down to see the bulge in his jeans had flattened somewhat. Alisha's touch did nothing for him now; his cock seemed to have shrunk inside himself.

Her music still rang in his ears, and Boone realized he had not completely turned off the stereo. No doubt the captain's neighbors, if any were home right now, had already formed low opinions of him without needing to meet him. He could only hope everybody in this building had gone to work.

The angry knock on the front door told him otherwise.

Boone sighed and did his best to make himself look presentable. He smoothed back his unruly mop of ginger brown hair and tucked his T-shirt into his black jeans, prepared to face the wrath of whatever little old lady waited for him on the other side.

He was not expecting the shapely brunette glaring back at him with equal surprise. He took in her heart-shaped face, deep brown eyes, and nearly flawless skin. The form fitting blouse and cutoff denim shorts she wore accentuated her every curve and the length of her lovely legs. She was the antithesis of the thin, lithe Alisha; put this woman in a red dress and veiled pillbox hat and she would fit nicely into any 1940s film noir.

Whoa. He shifted his hips slightly when he felt a stirring down below. His cock, previously repulsed, had suddenly found new life and filled the zipper pocket of his jeans once again. He hoped the shadows from the door would conceal it well enough from his visitor.

The woman, presumably a neighbor with a complaint, appeared to swallow back a curse and nodded. "You'll have to forgive me," she said, her voice deep and melodic. It suited her. "I heard the loud music coming from here, and I knew Captain Anderson had gone on vacation…"

"He did," Boone rejoined quickly with a nervous laugh. He gripped the open threshold, blocking her view of the interior. "He did. W—, er, I'm subletting the place for the month. I got into town late last night and took possession this morning." He wrinkled a brow; why had he just lied to this woman? Why not mention he was not alone?

"Oh." The woman nodded, folding her arms. She appeared to be studying him with some degree of amusement, Boone noticed. She had to be in her early thirties, and hardly fit the description of the typical complex resident described to him. Did she not work? Perhaps she was a stay-at-home mom? Boone cringed at the thought that Alisha's music might have woken a sleeping infant.

"I-I heard the music through my floor, and thought at first the captain might have rented his place to some college students," she said. "It's that time of year, you know, and it gets crazy around here during the spring and summer."

"I can sympathize. I'm from LA, where it's crazy all year round." A bout of chuckling from both fell quickly into an awkward pause, whereupon the woman shifted her weight and looked for another opening into the conversation via the opaque cobwebs plastered against the top corner of the captain's front door.

"You don't sound like you're from LA," she said. "My agent lives there, was born there, and she doesn't have a British accent."

"Oh, right. Well, that is to say I'm not originally from there, I've just been living there for the past ten years. On vacation now." Already into his life story and he had yet to introduce himself. Nice going, mate. "I'm sorry to be rude." He outstretched his hand. "Wesley Boone, but everybody just calls me Boone."

"Boone. I'm Tania Garber. I'm in 201." Her palm found its way into his, and he curled his fingers gently around her hand. Coupled with the sultry timber of her voice as she pronounced his name—her lips still pursed and looking very kissable—her touch sparked a numbing sensation that quickly spread up his arm and into his heart. A tingling in his chest alerted him to his nipples hardening underneath his thin T-shirt, and suddenly there flashed an image in his mind of those same kissable lips pursed around one turgid nipple, her tongue tracing a delicate circle on his skin.

He tried to mask his sudden pleasure with a friendly, platonic smile. How long had it been since a woman had that affect on him? Alisha had not done that to him in a long time, not even during last night's spontaneous tryst. Come to think of it, Alisha had yet to inspire such a feeling as this.

He heard Tania clear her throat, and Boone followed her gaze to their joined hands. With another nervous chuckle he loosened his grip and tucked the hand underneath the opposite arm. The continuing silence behind him played further on his nerves; who knew what Alisha was doing in the back bedroom, but he hoped she would remain quiet for the duration of Tania's visit.

"Let me assure you, Mrs. Garber—"

"It's Ms. Garber, but you may call me Tania, I'm very informal."

"Right. Tan-yah." He was careful to pronounce her name correctly, yet with his accent the name still sounded awkward. "Let me assure you that the loud music you heard was strictly an isolated incident, and I'm sorry it bothered you. I came here for some peace and quiet, doctor's orders."

"That's okay. It's just me upstairs, and I work from home."

"I see, well, I'll make an extra effort then." He managed to maintain his smooth demeanor despite his rapidly thudding heart. Miz. She was single. Could he hope for her also being unattached?

Why was he thinking this way? He did not come here to prowl.

Tania smirked. "Peace and quiet, huh? Well, I can't guarantee you'll find it here. I mean, the complex is quiet, don't worry about that. It's just that sometimes on the weekends it can get pretty loud what with the bars."

She gestured to the main road, and Boone peered into the distance to see the string of bars and restaurants planted along the strip. So early in the morning, few if any were open for business at the moment. Boone envisioned their gravel lots bloated with cars and sandaled foot traffic, whooping night revelers in search of the best drink specials, and cringed.

"It's at its worst on Fridays and Saturdays, don't worry." Tania's voice was both soothing and upbeat. "All the kids go to the Oceanfront during the week. Chick's Beach, that's what we call Chesapeake Beach, is more for the locals."

"That sounds better, I suppose, unless the locals party just as frequently," Boone said, then smiled at Tania. "I better finish cleaning up in here. I know I shouldn't keep you from what you were doing."

"Hm? Right." Tania backed toward the short flight of wooden stairs leading to her floor. "I have a killer deadline ahead of me, and I can't waste time."

"Of course." His stomach quietly roiled. Talking to him was a waste of time? Surely her words held a different meaning. Introductions never seemed graceful. Their next meeting, he promised himself, would go better. "I'll see you around, I hope?" He relaxed as Tania broke into a friendly grin.

"Definitely. Good luck with your health. If you need anything, I'm right upstairs."

I'll think of something. "I'll hold you to that." He closed the door in front of him and let out a long exhale. A perfect imprint of Tania's retreat played over in his mind; the soft sway of those hips hugged by her shorts, even the innocent manner in which she grasped the wooden railing as she ascended the stairs seemed erotic to him. He imagined that same hand grasping his cock and stroking him to orgasm, those curvy hips bare and pressed against his.

Relax. How was he supposed to relax with such a luscious woman one floor away, and still stuck with Alisha? He would have to end it sooner than planned, he knew, and get her on a plane back to LA before the two women ran into each other.

Of course, why would Miz Garber be bothered by Alisha? He shook his head; he was getting way ahead of himself. He had only just met the woman. How he could be sure of mutual interest? This was definitely not going to help toward relieving his stress.

At the very least, Boone decided as he trudged back to the kitchen, the visit ended on a high note and a friendly overture. Of course, Tania might have only made her offer in order to be polite. Was that not what all new neighbors said, come by if you need anything, but never really expected you to show up at their doors?

He would think of something to ask of Tania, even if he had to resort to begging the cliché cup of sugar.

As he glanced out the large window facing the busy street, he realized he had not found out exactly what it was Tania did at home. She had an agent, she said, so perhaps she was involved somewhat in freelance media. A writer, or maybe even a photographer like himself? Boone smiled, noticing the coffee shop wedged in the middle of a short strip mall. Now there was an opening he could use. He could invite Tania for coffee as an apology for the stereo incident, get to know her. Talk shop.

A muffled crash from the back room invaded his thoughts. Alisha's shrill voice next pierced his ears as he pressed a hand to his chest, failing to still his pounding heart.

"Boone, sweetie, could you give me a hand?"

"Coming." He bent his head. Alisha speaking his name nowhere near had the effect of Tania's honeyed voice.

Copyright 2005 Leigh Ellwood

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